Last Tuesday, Feb. 5, the American Democracy Project (ADP) of IU South Bend held a discussion and watch party for the Presidential State of the Union Address (SOTU) at River Crossing.
The evening began with a panel discussion of the recent 35 day partial government shutdown. Assistant Professor Sungkyu Jang and Associate Professor Jamie Smith of the political science department led the discussion. They answered questions about the economic and social effects of an extended shutdown. Jang explained that the daily economic cost of the shutdown is “$81 million.” That means the recent shutdown cost $2.84 billion. The amount President Donald Trump has requested for the wall is $5.7 billion.
Some of the interns with the ADP shared some interesting facts about the State of the Union Address. One of the most notable is the concept of a “designated survivor.” Since there are so many high-ranking politicians from all branches of government at the SOTU, one member of the President’s Cabinet is selected to stay in a secure location. In the event of a massive attack on the address, this individual will oversee government. Their name is not announced until right before the address. This year’s designated survivor was the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue.
The president spoke on a variety of topics during his SOTU address including abortion, prison reform, paid time off, national security, a border wall, the Mueller investigation and North Korea.
“An economic miracle is taking place in the United States and the only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics or ridiculous partisan investigations,” the president said during his address, referring to Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into whether or not there was collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia in 2016.
The president also touted the recently passed First Step Act, which among other things, lowers mandatory sentences for minor drug offenses and makes it easier for nonviolent offenders to be released early.
Trump started out his remarks on immigration by mentioning legal immigrants.
“Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society,” he said.
Later Trump called out previous politicians for not getting a wall built saying, “I will get it built.”
Trump also announced during his speech that he will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un once again, this time in Hanoi, Vietnam. The meeting is set to take place on Feb. 27 and 28.
President Trump’s tone during the SOTU was calm and bi-partisan, consistent with the tradition of the yearly address.
The issue of climate change was never mentioned in the 82 minute speech.
Former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives and 2018 Georgia governor candidate Stacy Abrams delivered the Democratic response to the SOTU. She addressed some issues that Trump did not, such as gun control.
“This White House responds timidly while first graders practice active shooter drills…our leaders must be willing to tackle gun safety measures,” Abrams said.
This SOTU comes at a time where many democratic candidates have already announced their 2020 presidential campaigns.
“I believe both speeches kind of set the stage for the upcoming 2020 elections,” ADP intern Rachel Kairo said.
Prominent Democrats like Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and even South Bend’s own Pete Buttigieg have announced their candidacies. Many more are expected to follow.